Editor's note: We're following the Sedgwick County master gardeners on a tour of six homegrown garden centers in Wichita this spring. This week we visit Tree Top Nursery.
Retired extension agent Norman Warminski has a part-time job these days — helping out during the spring crush at Tree Top Nursery.
"This is the most fun place to play," Warminski told the master gardeners this week as we gathered for a tour of Tree Top. Between all the bright flowers surrounding us and the pristine sunny afternoon, we had no reason to doubt him.
As our weather is hopefully finally getting past that too-cool-at-night-to-plant stage (we can be finished with the 40s any time now, Mother Nature), it was an ideal time to get a potting demonstration from Warminski as part of our visit.
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Tree Top specializes in instant gratification, from large trees and shrubs to a potting bench called The Pot Spot where you or an employee can, for a fee, pot up your plants for a container garden without the mess or need to drag bags of potting soil and other amendments home.
Warminski — who doesn't have any container smaller than 22 inches in diameter in his own yard — quickly and expertly filled a pot of that size with a combination of 14 hot-colored flowered and foliaged plants. No need to wait for them to fill in empty spots in the container. The effect was immediate and gorgeous.
Tree Top Nursery was started by Ron Matney and the late Connie Mills in 1975. Ron's son Mark now runs the nursery with his sister and brother-in-law Melette and Jeff Brown. Ron Matney is also still active in the business and can often be found greeting customers.
Tree Top has four divisions: landscape design, irrigation, the garden center and landscape maintenance. It covers 25 acres on 37th Street between Oliver and Woodlawn.
"We do a tremendous amount of landscaping in town," Mark Matney told the master gardeners.
Extension agent Bob Neier asked how the landscaping crews were able to work with the poor soil found in new housing developments. Matney said that his crews worked in lots of organic matter, built berms with good topsoil and chose plants that work best in each site. He also said that it was sometimes possible at a new house to bring in good soil right off the bat. And when trees such as blue spruces are planted, the landscaping crew may add a drain tube or sink gravel in a deep hole under the tree to aid in drainage.
Tree Top's more than 200 varieties of trees range from 1 1/2- to 7-inch caliper (the thickness of the trunk). The biggest trees can weigh 3,000 pounds. Matney called them "landscape-ready. You can make an instant statement."
Master gardener Laverna McCoy commented that she had served on the garden show board with Matney and Linden Johnson of the Johnson's Garden Center family, and that Matney and Johnson made quite a pair.
"We're all friends," Matney said of his relationship with the owners of Wichita's long-established garden centers. He also said that out-of-town vendors joined him in being amazed at the number of garden centers that a city the size of Wichita has.
"It's a true testament to the strength of gardening here. Of course, it's the Plains, so we have to plant everything."
Warminski enlightened us on a couple of flowers we might want to plant: melampodium and ruellia.
Melampodium is a yellow daisy-type annual that can easily be overlooked in the spring, looking demure in little pots. But it produces big returns, Warminski said. It eventually gets 2 1/2 feet tall and produces more and more flowers over the summer with no down time and no need to deadhead. Then it reseeds 99 percent of the time for a return show the following year. (It can sometimes spread a lot.)
Ruellia is a tall purple-flowered annual that, if planted in the ground and mulched, will come back. Or put pots of it in the garage over the winter with some occasional water, then cut it back in the spring and it will grow.
See the accompanying box for Warminski's potting tips.
Next week: We're off to Johnson's Garden Center.
Now you know
tree top nursery
Address: 5910 E. 37th St. North
Web site: www.treetop-nursery.com
Specialties include: instant gratification in the form of landscape-ready trees and a potting bench where you or a staff member can, for a fee, pot up your plants in a container garden.